4.4 Million reasons…and counting
by Dr Garrey M. Dennie
Today a revolution is unfolding in the USA and it is unlike anything we have ever seen. For after 400 years of systemic and institutionalized racism in the USA, the walls of racial hatred embedded in every fabric of American life are falling before the marching feet of millions of young Americans of every race and creed who have taken up the creed, “Black Lives Matter.”
And in doing so, the marchers have transformed this lamentation from the cry of pain of Black mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, and Black communities mourning the loss of loved ones murdered by White police, and they have re-made it into a rallying call to conscience, a demand for equal justice heard around the world. And at the heart of this lies a simple, but profound proposition: that Black lives in America, and indeed Black lives everywhere else, be treated with the same nobility and dignity accorded to the lives of America’s white citizens.
For Caribbean people who now enjoy the benefits of living in societies where we do not have to fear being murdered by our police on account of our race, some have asked the question: what does the struggle for Black Lives Matter in America have to do with our own struggles to produce and maintain ethical and moral communities on Caribbean shores? In a word, everything.
For lest we forget, the virus of racism that has deeply corrupted American society has never been a peculiar American disease. Rather, white supremacy which is the father of modern racism was born in the hellholes of the slave ships that brought Africans to the Americas. And it flourished in the pits of plantation slavery where Black bodies in the USA, in Jamaica, in St Vincent, in Brazil, indeed throughout the length and breadth of the American continents were transformed into commodities to feed the greed and wealth of a slaveholding and European colonial class who decimated Black lives to enrich their own. And it is one of our greatest Caribbean Prime Ministers, Dr Eric Williams of Trinidad and Tobago, who would forever transform the global understanding of this racial exploitation in his seminal work, ‘Capitalism and Slavery’.
And lest we forget, this struggle against racism that is taking place in America today has never been isolated to an individual country. Rather, Caribbean history is replete with heroes such as King Chatoyer in St Vincent, Toussaint L’Ouverture in Haiti, and the great maroon leader Nanny in Jamaica who confronted and ultimately destroyed global systems of slavery on the very same principle that fuels today’s marchers: Black Lives Matter. The language might have been different.
The principle, however, was always the same.
But we need not only look to this 400 years’ history of Caribbean people’s confrontation with racism to understand why Caribbean people in this moment of the challenge to the murderous racial injustice in America must find common cause with the Black Lives Matter movement. Here the answer is astonishingly simple: White police in America murder Black Caribbean people too. And they murder Black Africans too. And they murder Black and Brown Hispanic people too. And they do so with impunity.
In America today, when Black Caribbean people engage white police, national origins confer no protection to Black Caribbean people. Geographic origins are equally irrelevant. Blackness is the common denominator and for too many white police, it is your racial identity that marks you out for debasement and murder.
Self-preservation is therefore sufficient as an explanation on why Caribbean people too must join this fight in America. For according to the US Bureau of Census, there are 4.4 million Caribbean immigrants living in the US. These immigrants have American born children numbering more than two children per household. And all of them are at risk of being murdered by white police in America. So if we need an immediate answer to the question on why Caribbean people should stand against racial violence committed by white American police against Black people, we have 4.4 million reasons… and counting.